More spice for an old favourite
Mitsubishi’s Pajero is far from the new kid on the block among SUVs, but we think it’s one of the most likeable.
The 2009 wagon is a development of the original monocoque Pajero, the third generation of the model, which debuted in 2000.
The third generation of Mitsubishi’s full-sized SUV was a radical change from its predecessors, replacing the separate chassis with a unitary construction body/chassis that incorporated a ladder frame for added strength.
It introduced long-travel, all-independent suspension – double wishbone front and multi-link rear – and rack and pinion steering and its lower centre of gravity gave much-improved on-road dynamics.
More radical styling also came with generation three, including the pronounced eyebrows over the front wheelarches and hippy rear end.
That styling theme continues nine years down the track, and still looks distinctive and in some colours – notably silver – offers real dramatic presence.
We’ve driven three Pajeros in the past couple of years, two of them petrol – a long- and a short-wheelbase – and the Exceed LWB diesel we’re testing here.
Mitsubishi is placing greater emphasis on diesel, especially in New Zealand, where diesel is the flavour of the month with new-vehicle buyers, and for 2009 the Pajero’s 3.2-litre Direct Injection Diesel motor gets major upgrades.
The turbocharged and intercooled 3200cc diesel gets an 18 percent power boost, to 150kW at 3800rpm.
More significant, though, is the 23 percent peak torque lift, to 448Nm, developed at a decidedly useful 2000rpm which makes the Pajero diesel an ideal tow vehicle.
Mitsubishi says that despite the power and torque boosts it has improved the engine’s fuel efficiency.
It quotes consumption of 9.2 litres/100km, down from 10.5 litres/100km in the old 127kW/364Nm version of the engine. We achieved 11.2 litres/100km in running that was strongly biased towards city driving.
On sealed roads, the engine drives the rear wheels through a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic gearbox.
The Super Select II four-wheel drive system is driver-selectable and the truck can move from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive high ratio “on the fly” at speeds up to 100km/h.
It’s part of what Mitsubishi calls its MATT system (Mitsubishi All Terrain technology) that also includes Active Stability Control (ASC), active traction control (ATC), engine brake assist control, a hill holder, and a multi-mode ABS braking system.
The active traction and control system originally fitted to the Pajero was irritatingly intrusive if you were pressing-on on demanding sealed roads with continual direction changes.
It seemed unable to make up its mind as to whether it was trying to control understeer or oversteer, and progress was erratic, jerky, unpredictable and the electronic intervention often inappropriate, so that you’d suddenly find the car sledging alarmingly in ultra-tight corners.
Those systems seem to have been recalibrated and all three Pajeros we’ve driven recently were competent and enjoyable on-road handlers, especially the short-wheelbase version.
They’re still not as agile as a big sedan, but their on-road behaviour is more than acceptable, with mild oversteer the basic trait.
They feel as if they’re up on their toes when you’re really pushing hard, but that’s true of almost all large SUVs, save for sports-oriented ones like the Porsche Cayenne. Ride quality is good and bumps in the road almost don’t exist.
Gravel road grip is strong, and the Pajero is extremely competent off-road with a useful 225mm of ground clearance, compact approach, ramp-over and departure angles and a go-anywhere 4x4 system.
We’ve driven the Pajero in some very tight, ultra-slippery off-road terrain on the North Island’s central plateau where it acquitted itself extremely well.
It’s manoeuvrable enough in the city, with an 11.4-metre turning circle, and is easy to park owing to the high seating position.
The diesel is a willing unit and the hefty torque gives the big truck – 1490mm long, 1875mm wide, 1900mm high,3030kg gross vehicle weight – strong pulling power and useful acceleration.
The motor is smooth and refined, and the torque makes light work of towing, with the ability to haul a 3300kg braked or 750kg unbraked trailer.
Safety kit includes front and side airbags for driver and front seat passenger and side curtain airbags for all passengers. There are two Isofix mountings for child seats.
The four-wheel disc brakes (rears are disc-in-drum) provide solid stopping power; Mitsubishi says the Exceed will stop from 100km/h in 42 metres. Wheels are 18-inch alloys shod with 265/60 R18 tyres.
The test Exceed is the top-of-the-range model and as such was loaded with equipment. There are power windows, power-adjustable and foldable exterior mirrors, a burglar alarm and immobiliser, cruise-control, privacy glass on side windows, and automatic air-conditioning with a separate control panel for rear seat (second row in the seven-seater) passengers.
Driver’s and front passenger seats are power-adjustable, and the sound system is a Rockford Fosgate unit with 12 speakers, including four tweeters and a sub-woofer. It provides superb sound, is MP3 compatible and has a six-disc CD stacker.
The added attraction in the Exceed is the rear cabin DVD player with dual headphones and a screen that folds down from the roof. It was just perfect to provide some enjoyable video entertainment while I ate my lunch mid-way through the test.
There’s a comprehensive trip computer, leather upholstery and trim, the steering wheel is leather-wrapped, and there’s plenty of front and rear cabin space. Front seats offer good comfort and support.
Naturally there’s remote-control central door-locking, and there are front foglights and a wash system for the discharge-type headlights.
Luggage capacity is good and, with the second and third rows of seats folded, stretches to 1430mm long. Load-carrying roof rails boost luggage capacity.
The Pajero diesel Exceed lists for a hefty $84,990 but in the large luxury SUV category, that’s at the bargain end of the price spectrum. Many rivals with similar specification list at north of $100,000.
Like we said at the outset, the Pajero is no new-kid-on-the-block but it still has a lot more than a competitive price to recommend it.
It’s a solid off-road performer, and a comfortable and not unwieldy mount for the school run on city streets.
It performs well, has good on-road manners, is rock solid on gravel roads and has out-of-the-ordinary looks.
In all, it’s worth considering if you’re in the market for a big, well-equipped SUV.
Read more here and see Pajero Exceeds for sale here.